At the NHRA Spring Nationals, the second event of the J&A Service Pro Mod Series, in by far the best outing of his Pro Mod career, two-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Jim Whiteley whipped the reigning Pro Mod champ to reach the semifinals for the first time as a Pro Mod driver.
“Now, that was an awesome weekend,” said Whiteley, who also went a couple rounds in Top Alcohol Dragster. “It’s hard to hop from car to car, and Pro Mod and Alcohol Dragster were stacked right on top of each other all weekend, so there wasn’t much time to get ready mentally, but it turned out pretty well.”
It wasn’t looking good with one session to go, but a tire swap Saturday morning brought Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Chevelle to life. “A few feet off the line, it was obvious that putting the new Goodyear tire like we run on Annie’s Funny Car was the right move,” he said. A 5.92 on that run put Whiteley well into the field and set up a first-round match with the second-ranked driver in Pro Mod this season, Gatornationals runner-up Pete Farber.
Whiteley’s car stumbled off the line, but Farber disqualified himself with a red-light, advancing Whiteley to the quarterfinals. “You never like to have one given to you like that,” he said. “I hated it for Farber – he was way up there in points. I told him, ‘You really shouldn’t have done that,’ and I never even knew he red-lighted till they pulled me off the track – the car shook so hard that it shook the kill switch off, and I coasted forever.”
34 seconds after he left the starting line, Whiteley rolled silently across the finish line at 22 mph, the winner. “You don’t pay any attention to what’s going on in the other lane in a situation like that,” he said. “I was so mad that I lost, I was just looking for the first place to turn off.”
In the second round, Whiteley didn’t need any lucky breaks. In a performance reminiscent of his dominant days in Top Alcohol Dragster, he hit the Tree for an outstanding .043 reaction time, cracked the 5.8-second barrier for the first time as a Pro Mod driver, and whipped the most accomplished Pro Mod driver of the past several years, two-time and defending world champ Rickie Smith, on a 5.89 to 5.88 holeshot.
Whiteley slipped to a 5.94 in the semifinals and fell to eventual winner Don Walsh, who would have been hard to beat regardless with a 5.82, low e.t. of the meet. “The video shows that it put a hole out about 60 feet out, then it picked it back up,” Whiteley said. “The car kind of sashayed through low gear, and that was it. Doesn’t matter. I’m so pumped – I’m ready to race again right now. I wish there was another race this weekend.”